Jun 22, 2020
Published in: Health Affairs, Volume 39, Number 6, pages 1051–1059 (2020). doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2019.00893
Posted on RAND.org on June 04, 2020
Ninety-nine percent of global maternal deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The high mortality rates are often attributed to a large portion of births occurring outside of formal health care facilities. This has prompted the creation of programs to promote the use of formal delivery care. However, poor-quality care in health facilities in low- and middle-income countries is well documented. It is not clear that shifting births into health facilities in these settings necessarily leads to better-quality care. We present results from a randomized controlled trial in Nigeria that evaluated a conditional cash transfer intervention that paid pregnant women to deliver in a health facility. We found that the intervention led to a 41 percent increase in facility deliveries. We also found improvements in the quality of delivery care (as a result of more births taking place in formal health care settings) and in overall satisfaction with care. We found no evidence of a reduction in preventable complications that led to maternal deaths, though we found some improvements in self-reported health. Our results indicate that promoting facility deliveries can improve the quality of care received, even in settings where formal care quality is poor. However, modest quality improvements might not be sufficient to substantially improve health outcomes.